'The road to Jerusalem goes through the Arab capitals - and it's a two-way street'
by Hossam El-Hamalawy in Cairo
The mainstream media in Egypt has been engaged in a horrible demonisation of Palestinians. Talk show hosts and presenters have been coming out in unprecedented support for Israel.
But this is not how many Egyptians view the Palestinian cause and the latest Israeli onslaught in particular.
The support for Israel has to be seen in the bigger context. Egypt is going through a counter-revolution with the revolutionary forces largely defeated.
The regime knows the Palestinian cause has always been central to the politicisation of large sections of Egyptian youth.
So the attacks on Palestinians in the media are part of the counter-revolutionary attack against anything that’s remotely associated with the forces for change in Egypt. On the ground there haven’t been many solidarity protests.
But this too has to been seen against the background of the military coup and the enactment of the protest law. This has seen around 41,000 political detainees imprisoned and 3,000 citizens murdered at the hands of the military from July last year to today.
This has meant that any movement on the streets on any issue has receded. But the Palestinian cause is still very important to Egyptians.
The Muslim Brotherhood in its almost daily protests against the military crackdown is chanting for Palestine. And secular forces have organised two protests outside the press syndicate, with very modest numbers in the hundreds.
Secular forces also organised two aid convoys to Gaza. One was stopped by Egyptian forces in Sinai, the second allowed through.
If Palestine was not that important the regime would not have invested all of this time and effort and money into attempting to demonise the Palestinian struggle.
Israel is on the defensive. It is desperately attempting to maintain its public image of the little David confronting the big Goliath.
And the Egyptian regime has also not received much positive media coverage in the West. Its role in besieging Gaza and directly aiding the Israeli assault has become too much for many people to stomach.
So people blame el-Sisi and the regime as well as Israel for what is happening in Gaza.
Egypt is worried about the impact of this on its status as a broker in the region.
The regime’s role is to ensure stability, to protect the security of the state of Israel and to work as a mediator between the Palestinians and Israelis. It’s how it makes money.
The term mediator can give a false impression that Egypt is neutral. It isn’t. Egypt has sided with Israel before, this is not the first time.
The level of betrayal by the Egyptian regime is shown by the fact that even the Palestinian negotiators are no longer keen to deal with it. They prefer to work with Qatar or Turkey. This means that Egypt is even more diplomatically isolated.
Mass protests about Gaza are happening elsewhere in Yemen, Algeria, Sudan, probably everywhere but Egypt—for the moment.
In Amman, the capital of Jordan, protests have called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the shutting down of the embassy.
Some sections of the demonstrations went even further and criticised the local regime itself.
Chanting against King Abdullah II is a huge taboo. The fact that protesters are defying this reminds me of how Hosni Mubarak was taboo only a few years ago here in Egypt.
There is definitely a huge sense of pride in what the Palestinian resistance has managed to achieve and strong solidarity from both Islamist and secular forces.
I’ve heard staunch secular Palestinians tell me, “We do have our differences with Hamas, but when Israel attacks we are all behind those who are willing to take up arms and fight the aggressor.”
Such unity has not always been so. I recall in 2006 during the Lebanon war as well as during the Gaza war in 2008 the whole Islamist card was waved by so many people to discredit the resistance.
There were still some saying at the start of this war that “Hamas are Islamist terrorists”. But this seems to have moved on, partly because of the steadfastness of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians are not just fighting Israel. They are fighting a complex matrix of regional interests including all the Arab regimes. This is including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backed by the biggest superpower, the US.
All of these allies of Israel will not let Egypt fall in front of a heroic Palestinian resistance. This means the fight of the Palestinians is linked organically to the fight of the Arab masses against their own regimes.
Imagine the el-Sisi regime wasn’t in power. Imagine instead there was a revolutionary government dedicated to the cause of Palestinian resistance.
It would receive refugees during wartime, and provide free passage for goods and people. It would provide diplomatic and military aid to the resistance.
As we say, the road to Jerusalem passes through the Arab capitals. But we have to remember it’s a two way road.
The Palestinians fight the Israelis and they inspire us to follow suit and topple our own regime. The Egyptian revolution in 2011 was part of a chain reaction that started with the protests supporting the Intifada in 2000.
The struggle was brewing for ten years. The pro-Palestinian and anti-war movements helped translate mass dissent into social movements that overthrew Mubarak in 2011.
As Egyptians, we owe the Palestinians.
‘The peace process made it worse—we need a one state solution’
The current crisis has thrown up questions about how to end Israel’s brutal occupation in Palestine.
Internationally some people are calling on world leaders to broker a peace deal.
But a history of rotten peace agreements with Israel means there is strong opposition to this among many Palestinian activists.
Hala Turjman is based in Jerusalem. She told Socialist Worker that a peace agreement reached at Oslo in 1993 was particularly damaging for Palestinians.
“I’m against the whole peace process,” she said. “Things worsened after Oslo—Israel has benefited from it. Us Palestinians are against it.”
The Oslo Accords saw the Palestinian leadership agree to recognise Israel and commit to negotiations.
In turn Israel agreed to withdraw from some parts of the Palestinian land it occupied following the 1967 war.
The Palestinians were permitted to have their own provisional government known as the Palestinian Authority (PA).
But it would not be independent. The PA and Israel would have security coordination.
For Rabea Eghbariah, a student at Tel Aviv university, Oslo is also a reminder of why looking for peace deals is not the answer.
He said, “As long as the relationship with Palestine and Israel is occupier and occupied and coloniser and colonised there can be no negotiations.”
Israel is not interested in achieving peace.
Although Israel has officially withdrawn from the West Bank, Palestinians have to endure the daily humiliation of checkpoints and arrests.
And as Rabea said, “The negotiations are not only failing but the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are expanding.”
However there is a group in Palestine that has benefited from the peace process.
As Hala said, “The bureaucrats and those in high positions in the PA have benefited from the peace process.”
They got rich or stayed rich during the Oslo years. This has created an interdependency between them and Israel.
“Palestinian businesses have connections and conferences with Israeli businesses. They have mutual interests,” said Hala.
“The PA is protecting the occupation so they can stay in power. Israel know that people will not rebel while the PA is in power.”
Hala believes that the financial power of the PA is one of the reasons that it has not yet been overthrown, despite its betrayals.
International funding for Palestine goes through Israel which they in turn provide the PA.
Hala said, “I think many depend on the PA, as they are the only ones who provide salaries and income.”
Palestinian activists have started to see the PA as an obstacle to achieving freedom.
“It removes the responsibility from Israel,” said Rabea. “I oppose it as long as we’re still living in the reality of occupation.
Hala goes further, “I think that our priority now is to dissolve the PA because they are standing between us and the occupier,” she said.
“When we try to go to settlements the police stop us. We are fighting two battles, one with Israel and one with the PA.
“We can’t get rid of the occupation before we get rid of them.”
The Oslo agreements and the peace process are all linked to the promise of a two state solution.
This is the idea of an Arab Palestinian statelet next to a Jewish Israeli state.
But for many Palestinians this is no solution.
“If I could choose between a one state solution and a two state solution I would choose the one state,” said Rabea.
Palestinians call the land claimed by Israel as “48 Palestine” referring to its ethnic cleansing by Zionists in 1948. This is where
many of the Palestinian refugees around the world were driven from.
“There is a legitimate claim for Palestinians for what is now called Israel. These claims cannot be addressed with a two state solution,” said Rabea.
“The Zionist state is inherently racist for Arabs that live inside Israel. Speaking as a citizen inside 48 I am considered a second class citizen.
“A two state solution seeing Israel as having a permanent state defined as a Jewish state perpetuates this racism.”
Hala is also against the two state solution, and she is angry about Western leaders’ attempts to impose one on Palestinian people.
“They’re not the ones living under occupation,” she said. “They have no right to tell us what the solution should be.”
What about Hamas?
This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas
The movement of revolutionary change against capitalism is not only an international class struggle against the exploiting classes. Struggles and uprisings of the oppressed can also destabilise and weaken the system.
From this perspective we can see that the Palestinian struggle against Zionism and imperialism plays a pivotal role in destabilising the global imperialist system.
But we always attempt to understand Islamist movements in the historical context.
We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.
We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.
We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.
From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.
It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.
Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.
Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.
Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.
But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.